Missouri House Approves Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB 1266)
The Missouri House of Representatives approved legislation this week that would prohibit abortions on any fetus a doctor determines is capable of feeling pain.

Representative Gary L. Cross

House Bill 1266 would prevent such abortions unless they are found to be necessary to avert the mother’s death, or if there is a serious risk to the mother of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. In such cases, a doctor would be required to end the pregnancy in a way that gives the fetus the greatest chance of survival without posing such risks to the mother.

The sponsor calls the bill the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” She and other backers of the legislation say there is scientific evidence that a fetus can feel pain at 22 weeks gestational age, or 20 weeks fetal age. The sponsor said at this stage it is “much safer for the mother and for the fetus to be able to have a C-section.”

The bill also requires reporting of such abortions to the Department of Health and Senior Services, and would make a doctor who performs an abortion in violation of the bill’s provisions subject to discipline.

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Moves to Protect and Expand the Use of Service Animals (HB 1369 and HB 2031)
House members approved two pieces of legislation this week related to the use of service dogs in Missouri. One would expand the state’s legal definition of what qualifies as a “service dog.” The other would make it illegal to misrepresent an animal as a service animal.

According to the sponsor, the bills are aimed at making life better for those who legitimately have service dogs and service animals. She said these individuals represent a growing segment of society, and the list of conditions dogs can help with continues to grow as well.

HB 1369 changes the definition of “service dog” to include psychiatric service dogs and mental health service dogs. The definition covers dogs that serve individuals with conditions including panic attacks, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The sponsor said the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has left the definition of what is considered a “service dog” in a gray area, so HB 1369 would make clear what animals qualify as service dogs.

HB 2031 would add the crime of misrepresenting a dog or animal as a service dog or assistance animal to Missouri’s existing law against impersonating a person with a disability. It would make those crimes misdemeanors punishable by up to fifteen days in jail, or up to 6 months for repeated violations.

Backers of HB 2031 said when people fake having a service animal it casts doubt on individuals who really do have them. The sponsor said such fraud causes other issues as well, and noted that untrained dogs have attacked service dogs in training, or attacked patrons in a restaurant.

HB 2031 would require the Commission on Human Rights to use its existing complaint hotline to take reports of individuals believed to be faking having a disability or a service animal.

It would also require the Governor’s Council on Disability to design a placard that restaurants and other businesses could display stating that service dogs are welcome and that misrepresentation of a service dog is illegal. A brochure would also be created to help business owners know what questions are allowed and guidelines on how to behave around service animals.

Both bills have now moved to the Senate for consideration.

Tax Reform Bill Receives First-Round Approval (HB 2540)
Lawmakers gave initial approval this week to comprehensive tax reform legislation that would cut the state’s personal and corporate income tax rates and transform Missouri’s tax system to the most competitive in the nation. The legislation would also make substantive reforms to generate much-needed funding to repair and improve Missouri’s aging transportation infrastructure.

The sponsor of the bill noted the bill has four pillars – an income tax cut, a business tax cut, a funding mechanism for the state’s road fund, and a variety of fiscally responsible revenue generators. As he told his colleagues, “The reason that we run for office, and stand on the floor, is to try to do big and bold and ambitious things for this state, and I believe this is one of them.”

In an effort to ease the tax burden on Missouri families, the bill would reduce the state’s highest personal income tax rate from 5.9 percent to 5.0 percent. The change would place Missouri in the top 10 states for lowest personal income tax. The bill would also help Missouri’s business climate by cutting the corporate income tax from 6.25 percent to 5.0 percent. This reduction would also put Missouri in the top 10 states for the lowest corporate income tax.

Additionally, the bill would generate much-needed revenues for the state’s roads and bridges. It would put Missouri in line with many other states by indexing vehicle user fees to the cost of inflation. The state’s current vehicle license and registration fees were put in statute in 1984, and have not changed in more than 30 years. The tax reform bill would update fees from their 1984 value to present day value. The increase is a key component to the effort to generate more than $2 billion in additional funding for transportation infrastructure over the next decade. The idea was recommended by both the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force and the House Policy Development Caucus.
Firefighters and First Responders Honored at State Capitol
Lawmakers welcomed first responders from around the state to the State Capitol building on Wednesday as part of the state’s annual Firefighters Day. Hundreds of firefighters and first responders were on hand to participate in the event that is meant to recognize the importance of the work they do to keep Missouri families and communities safe.

Attendees were welcomed with an enormous American flag at the east entrance of the Capitol building. The flag was displayed between two ladder trucks provided by the Jefferson City Fire Department. First responders in attendance were thanked for their efforts by Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden and Missouri Fire Marshal Tim Bean.

Missouri’s fire service includes more than 24,000 career and volunteer responders working across more than 850 departments. Members of Missouri’s fire service not only respond to fires and medical emergencies, but also play key roles in other emergencies, including complex technical rescues, hazardous materials incidents, natural disasters and homeland security special details. Firefighters also perform many other critical tasks, including fire safety inspections and working to educate the public about fire safety and prevention.

I am proud to serve on your behalf, Gary L. Cross